Honors Former Student Spotlight: Matt With a Backpack

Matt Kiihne ’18 served as a Sophomore Advisor and then as Junior Advisor in the Honors Housing Community. He graduated last year as an Undergraduate Research Scholar with a degree in computer science and is spending some time traveling. In the post below, he shares his experience working on a farm.

– By Matt Kiihne

I just spent the last two weeks and a bit on the Balearic island of Mallorca. The largest of 3 major islands shortly off the coast of Spain, it is a very popular tourist destination, especially among Germans. It’s popularity with Germans is hard to understate. An illustration; the emergency information on the bus was written in Spanish on top and underneath in German. Mallorca is framed by Ibiza, of nightclub fame, on one side and Menorca, of no particular note, on the other. The islands are roughly part of Catalonia and while the official language is Spanish, day to day conversation was in Mallorqui, which is a verbal dialect of Catalán. The largest city is Palma which has the 3rd busiest airport in Spain which is more impressive considering that most of the traffic is in 6 months of the year.

I spent most of my time in a place called Son Negre, a couple kilometers from the main Lidl on the eastern side of the island, also known as the village of Felanitx. I spent two weeks living and working with Bernat and other travelers on a tomato farm. By the time I had arrived most of the tomatoes had already been harvested so my time involved carob in some sense or another.

Matt Kiihne ’18 on the farm in Mallorca

You might remember carob from its attempt to take over chocolate’s throne a couple decades ago. It is a relatively short tree brimming with dark brown pods approximately 10 cm long that taste like someone was trying to recreate the taste of chocolate from 35 year old memories alone. The harvesting process is basically the same as that of olives. You shake the tree repeatedly, the branches, the trunk, twigs even, hitting them with a long stick. Poking the pods if need be. Then you pick everything up off the ground into baskets and sacks and move on to the next tree. And then the next row. And then the next farm.

The carob, or gárola as it is known as on the island (it is algarroba in Spanish so they are sort of close) is grown for a couple reasons, the fruit, the flesh of the pod, is nutritious and used as animal feed for chickens, horses, and everything in between. The seeds on the other hand are quite useless for animals but some sort of large company pays top euro for just the seeds. I’m not sure what type of company it is, I think I heard something about cosmetics but the farmers don’t really care. Bernat’s other main activity is building and maintaining a machine that separates out the seeds from the pods with a bonus of grinding some of the fruit up enough for chicken feed.

To read more about Matt’s experiences and see the photos of his travels, visit https://mattwithabackpack.wordpress.com/

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